Stephen Aldridge: Case study

at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)

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Director for Analysis and Innovation, Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

The Policy Fellowships provide a truly unique opportunity for senior civil servants such as myself to engage with academics right across Cambridge University and with others working in institutions closely associated with it.

As part of my Fellowship, I have had the opportunity to visit Cambridge twice (for three days at a time) for an intensive programme of meetings. Everyone I met was incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic about the programme, and determined to make it work for all involved. CSaP is quite brilliant at constructing a programme for each Fellow that addresses their particular interests and needs; in particular, the Centre has an uncanny knack of identifying people you would never have dreamt of wanting to meet from whom you’ll learn a very great deal.

The Fellowship scheme has brought benefits of various kinds to me personally...

  • Intellectual stimulation – the fact that all the meetings are one-to-ones is crucial to this.
  • Tremendous networking opportunities (not only academics within the University, but also senior people within organisations closely affiliated with Cambridge, such as Microsoft and Rand).
  • Fresh perspectives on things I’m interested in (such as insights from neuro-economics on human behaviour and attitudes to risk; the private sector on open-source innovation; communications science on social networks; or Jugaad innovation from India for the Big Society).

... and tangible benefits to my Department:

  • Better access to the huge intellectual and knowledge resources in Cambridge – Whitehall underestimates the scale of these resources which are virtually on its doorstep.
  • The participation of other members of the senior civil service in the programme, developing talent and building capability.
  • The involvement of leading thinkers from the University in the work of the Department – both high-profile engagement (on issues such as behaviour change), and invaluable ad hoc discussions which wouldn’t otherwise have taken place (on wellbeing, the internet of things, and innovative sources of finance for civil society).

The insights I’ve gained and connections I’ve made will be of lasting benefit. It’s a superb programme – available at little cost. I unhesitatingly commend it.